Classroom Snacks – real food solutions to snacks in public schools

little boo enjoying frozen grapes and peaches

Yesterday we discussed public school classroom party food.  Today we’re tackling classroom snacks in response to the question left by reader Kari on the Food with Kid Appeal facebook page.

My question is about school snacks for classroom parties. My son will be in first grade this year, well tomorrow :) , and I was asked to oversee all the parties for the entire school. I would like to compile a list of healthy, nut free snacks that the other parents can refer to. The main problem is that everything must have a nutritional label on it, no homemade snacks, to “prove” that the snack isn’t too high in fat, calories, sodium, etc. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated! Thank you :)

Ironically, many school wellness policies make it almost impossible for parents to provide food for classroom snacks that won’t be a distraction to the learning process. They state that only store bought snacks that come with labels showing nutrition information are the best way to protect allergy kids from exposures and all students from unhealthy snacks with too much sodium, fat, calories, etc. 

processed food is not healthy 

I know many kids are used to being fed goldfish, pretzels, gogurt and fruit snacks to quell their between meal hunger, but these snacks do not do what a snack should do.  Teachers and parents need snacks to provide kids with nourishment between meals so students can stay focused on learning objectives. Brain cells are greedy, they require two times of the energy other cells in the body need.  If the quality of the energy from food is lacking, the brain is not adequately fueled. This makes it hard for some students to focus, pay attention, follow rules, behave and build the skills the teacher is teaching.  For other students who are on the various learning and behavior disorder spectrums like ASD (autism), ADHD/ADD (behaviour/learning) and sensory processing and vision disorders, a starved brain makes it nearly impossible for them to be in the classroom in a productive way.

natural and artificial flavors

Most people are unaware that the snack in the package, while it may meet low sodium, fat and calorie requirements, actually contains other ingredients that have been manufactured in a factory specifically to trick brains into thinking they are more delicious and tasty than the food actually is.  These are usually natural or artificial flavors.  The flavors entice your child to eat too much of these snack foods, reducing their hunger for the real food that you may send in their lunch box, for after school snacks or dinner.

excitotoxins and neurotoxins

some ingredients are toxic to the various bits and pieces in the brain that are responsible for memory, learning, fact recall, connections between knowledge that allows kids to apply knowledge in difference scenarios.  They are called excitotoxins and neurotoxins.  These ingredients are also manufactured in factories and are used by food manufacturers to improve taste, palatibility appearance and acceptance of a food.   Petrochemical food dyes fall in this category.  Sure that gogurt looks like it’s made from strawberries, but there may be no actual fruit in the snack.  Not only is it lacking in fruit which would nourish a learning brain, it is actually sub-lethally neurotoxic.   MSG and it’s derivatives like the protein isolates common in most “high protein” snacks also fall in this category.

Students don’t fall over dead when they eat gogurt or cereal bars, nor do they go into convulsions or lose consciousness.  Those would be acute severe reactions. Our kids respond to these artificial and toxic ingredients in a chronic way.  They generally make it harder for them to follow directions, stay focused, pay attention, learn without interventions.  It is so chronic that as parents and educators we think these reactions are “normal” kid behavior. 

sodium

There are tons of minerals in natural real salt.  each cell in the human body needs minerals to perform their vital functions.  When we serve kids snacks made with chemically altered “table” salt we strip out many of the trace minerals needed by their growing developing body.  Further, the salt used in processed food has gone through a refining process that adds other chemicals to the salt.  They are chemicals that your body doesn’t recognize and doesn’t know how to metabolize.  The body treats them as toxins and it attempts to remove them from the digestive system.  The sodium in processed food is not beneficial, but also harmful.  That is not the case when we use unrefined real salt with trace minerals to season our food.

fat

I know there is a craze to make everything low fat and healthy.  But this doesn’t make sense.  Look at nature.  What do animals eat?  Do they eat a “low fat” diet?  No.  Bears eat tons of fatty salmon, squirrels and birds eat tons of fatty nuts and seeds.  Carnivores eat entire animals muscle meat, organs meat, fat and all.  Herbivores must eat constantly all day long because their source of nutrition contains very little protein, carbohydrate and fat.  Blades of grass have a bit of carbohydrates, protein and fat, but not much.  Giraffes sleep for only 4 hours a day.  They chew leaves most of the rest of the time.  Cows graze all day.  And while leaf eaters are grazing they are also consuming protein and fat dense insects which supply them with vital nutrients.  I know we don’t feed our kids insects, and they don’t have time to chew leaves all day, so we must provide other fat sources for their brain.

If nature isn’t low fat, why should your child be low fat?

fat is protective in food scarce times.  most humans in developed countries don’t have to worry about food scarcity, so we have no need to carry excess weight from a survival perspective.  but our brains and bodies are evolved to need fat.  as a society we need to stop starving students’ brains of necessary fat.

We must feed them real fat from natural sources like butter, whole milk dairy, eggs, meat and unrefined olive or nut/seed oils. Not fat made in a factory, like refined vegetable oils.  These are so chemically changed from what nature provides us for nourishment that the body has to treat them as toxins that need to be eliminated.  Again you are feeding a child something that has no nourishing properties and requires their detoxification filters to work over-time to filter out.

carbohydrates

We are also in a low carbohydrate craze in our society.  While it’s true that humans don’t need anywhere near the 8 daily servings of grains that the USDA makes us think we need, we also don’t need to cut out this vital source of energy from our diets.  the challenge becomes trying to find a “safe” carbohydrate.  One that your body can digest and use as energy to fuel the energy greedy brain.

We would never ask a highly trained athlete to step on to the field and perform without proper fuel for his body.  why then do we expect undernourished teachers to teach undernourished kids and send a large majority of the student population to trade school or college?

We don’t eat wheat the way our ancestors did.  They knew it had to be properly cultivated, harvested, stored, and prepared for it to both provide nutrition and in food scarce times like drought and winter nourish the population until crops were growing again.  They knew that if they didn’t sour it before eating it (sourdough bread) it would sicken the population.

That’s why so many people are now learning they are gluten intolerant.  Not because wheat itself is allergenic but because the way we grow and eat it does not provide it nutrients the body in such a way that the nutrients can be assimilated.  Instead we eat it and it is seen by the body as non-nutritive molecules and the body puts it through an already taxed detox filter.

processed foods overtax sophisticated detox systems

When we flood the body with too many “non-nutritive” molecules that have to be cleansed from the body, this overtaxes the body’s detoxification system, and eventually like a clogged air filter, it will stop functioning.  That leaves the toxins building up in the bloodstream, passing the blood brain barrier.  Once the toxins get into the brain, the brain can’t learn or behave without interventions.

Our modern diet has started a bunch of eduction fires that educators and administrators work hard to put out.  Meanwhile those same educators while they are busy fighting fires, are expected to educate all our kids and get them ready for college.  How realistic is that?? Why don’t we stop dumping tons of resources into interventions and start feeding our students real food so they don’t need a ton of interventions.  Sure that food will cost more, but if we can spend far less on interventions it will be a less expensive long term solution.

the real food in school solution

As parents let’s work together with school administrators on their wellness policies to provide students with more real brain friendly food for students during the day.  Let’s empower our teachers to teach.  Let’s clear the distracting fake food obstacles our food industry has created out of the way and let our little ones learn in the classroom.

If you are a room-mom or member of your schools wellness council, healthy lifestyles committee,  PTA member, coordinated school health council (SHAC) you can share the following solutions in your child’s school.

Whole food is generally not too fatty, salty, caloric to fail school wellness policies.  Instead of making a list of nut-free low sodium, fat, calorie processed foods, think of whole foods your school can provide.

convenience vs nourishment

These snacks are not convenient or cheap to provide, but since when has raising kids been cheap or convenient?  Our kids deserve our dedication, resources and efforts in order to be who we expect them to be. 

For those of you in schools with a large population of low-socioeconomic students and parents, take this snack proposal to your PTA/PTO or school administrator.  Ask for funds to provide real snacks to kids.  These real snacks could almost provide as many benefits to test scores and reading levels as the new readers or technology the PTA is planning on spending their budget on.

  • Whole fruit (when age and budget appropriate) like apples, grapes, clementines, bananas are full of vitamins and minerals and complex carbohydrates the brain can run on. 
  • Yogurt parfaits using whole milk, real honey, cut fruit and whole grain toppers like granola are very nourishing.  If we condone ice-cream parties and sundae bars why can’t we approve whole milk yogurt parfaits?
  • Whole milk cheese and fruit is a great snack for those who aren’t dairy intolerant.  I’m from an allergy kid family and I know we can’t feed every student in the classroom like my child eats.  It’s too expensive and unsustainable.   It doesn’t make sense to prevent 95% of students from being nourished so that 5% of students can avoid their allergies.
  • Trail Mix – raw seeds like pumpkin and sunflower seeds can be mixed with unsweetened granola and unsulphured dried fruit (like raisins).  When you see colorful dried fruit that should be a sign that sulphur was used in the drying process to keep it from turning brown.  We eat brown raisins and prunes, why not eat brown mango and pineapple too? Trail mix with seeds may not pass muster for schools that have strict nut free policies.  But for most schools they should work.
  • Popcorn  – home made stove top popcorn popped in palm or coconut oil, salted with real salt.  This is a four ingredient recipe that anyone with saucepan can make.  It’s cheap, shelf stable, and perfect for busy brains providing grains, minerals from salt and fat.
  • Sliced oranges and watermelon can be served at field day or other sports activities.  Full of all the hydration, minerals and electrolytes that Gatorade has, with no food dyes or high fructose corn syrup and all naturally occurring.

This post is participating in Real Food Wednesday.

    [ed note:  these are big important topics, and this post is sloppy.  it doesn't have the links to science to support what I'm saying and I'm sure it's too long and full of errors as most of my first drafts are.  i don't have time to edit and perfect this piece today, due to our crazy back to school schedule and we're getting second opinions on little boo's "intolerant to life" symptoms, so i'm a touch frazzled.  I will return to the classroom parties and snacks post to improve them once some of this busyness is over. for now, i hope this imperfect post is better than not seeing it at all for weeks until i can get it done right.]

    Spill it!  What do you love/hate about your school’s snack policy?

    20 thoughts on “Classroom Snacks – real food solutions to snacks in public schools

    1. OMG! This was timely today. My kids started school. They have been taking their lunches for 2 years. This year, the school teamed up with some program to offer FREE BREAKFAST for all kids of all income levels. So – After my kids eat their pastured eggs cooked in real butter, they are faced with the entire classroom being offered breakfast. Oh not just any breakfast. Today it was a COCOA KRISPIES BAR, graham crackers, grape juice, and nonfat flavored milk. The kids may choose 3 out of 4 items offered. Here's the menu if you can't believe it http://www.u-46.org/food/documents/BICAugust_001.pdf

      I liked your article. I heard a speaker on the Real Food Summit. He explained that ruminants actually eat a high fat diet. This is because they ferment the grasses and convert them into fatty acids. It is the same with gorillas. The majority of animals actually eat a high fat diet, base don the way their bodies process the food they eat. Humans are unique because we are hybrids. We can convert carbs or fat to glucose.
      I recommend googling Appleton Wisconsin school lunch. This district replaced their cafeteria food with whole, real food. Test score went up and behavior problems diminished.

      • i have been telling our district about appleton for years. they don’t listen to paranoid mama’s of allergy kids. i dread the day when our district decides to offer free breakfast for all students. it is so counter-intuitive. it solves a problem for a small % of the population – kids from food scarce homes that are teased for getting free/reduced food and creates a problem for a large % of students, double dipping eating at home and school, and/or eating less nutrient dense food than what mom or dad would serve at home. just when our country needs to be helping kids eat better and in many cases less, we are feeding them more junk food. *shudder*

        • kelly, my heart BREAKS every time i step foot in the school caf. i had to stop going every month, because it would take me a week to recovery from the sadness. instead of having lunch with my kids at school, I just enjoy afternoon snacks with them every day.

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    3. Great post! I believe that mothers should always be aware about the snacks that they give to their children. Some would always want to have that junk foods instead of fruits and vegetables. Mothers should always find a way to make foods that are healthy yet children are craving to eat.

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    7. This is such a timely post! I couldn’t agree more! Our school does not have a ‘packaged food only’ rule like many do, which is fortunate. I am a room mom and am going to share this article with my fellow classroom moms. Thanks for all of the information!

        • Educate your teachers too (if they are willing to listen)! We have such a major investment into your children, if they aren’t learning what we are teaching, because their brains aren’t functioning to the highest levels, then we really aren’t doing our jobs (teachers that is) to the best of our abilities.

          In some schools, teachers have imput into school policies (or at least they should!). The few schools I’ve taught at in Australia were very much like that, both parents and teachers had to be involved in school policies.

          Viva la school food revolution!!!

          • i completely agree! in fact the principal at our school is often more willing to make changes to (non-mission critical) policies when she knows they will be endorsed, embraced and executed in good spirit by a good % of her staff. so teachers, if you are for better food at your school please take the initiative to tell your admin team that you support changes. you can do so without volunteering to lead any efforts.

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    10. I really like your blog.. very nice colors & theme.

      Did you create this website yourself or did you hire
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